Madormo, John V. The Homemade Stuffing Caper: Charlie Collier, Snoop for Hire
10 May 2012, Philomel
Charlie is a huge fan of fictional detective Sam Solomon, and prizes his collection of dusty novels about his cases. He tries to emulate him by setting up a detective business in his garage with his friend Henry, and advertises himself as a "snoop for hire" . When birds around his neighborhood start to go missing, a classmate contacts him, but things quickly get much bigger than that. It turns out that Charlie's grandmother was a cryptologist for the government during WWII, and she lets him in on a secret about the mild mannered library volunteer Eugene-- he also worked in the secret service and now runs a detective agency. He realizes that the bird kidnapping is more signifigant than Charlie suspects, and helps him out when things get a bit dicey. Is Charlie up to a real case?
Strengths: Quite honestly, I was expecting a film noir train wreck with this, and was pleasantly surprised. Solid mystery, and while there isn't the death and dismemberment that middle graders seem to want these days, there is some danger and suspense. Charlie is described as overweight, but this doesn't come into play in the story very much.
Weaknesses: My mother, who is 78, was ten when WWII started, so I'm thinking the grandmother and Eugene have to be about 90. Had they been portrayed as part of the Cold War secret service, that might have been better. It's great that Charlie is inspired by a book, but since this is like Encyclopedia Brown in middle school, it would have been fun to at least mention Donald Sobol's work.
In the middle of book fair, but it's not as much fun to have it only during conferences.